Olive Oil vs. Coconut Oil

oilOlive Oil vs. Coconut Oil.

Okay, this is a fun one…

As part of The Kitchen Skinny family, you’ve heard us share the benefits of cooking with coconut oil versus olive oil. It’s one of the first switches we make with our clients as they prepare more meals at home.


The primary reason is that olive oil, due to its chemical structure, is susceptible to oxidative damage when heated. Whereas coconut oil more stable. (Note coconut oil is solid like butter until heated).

[box]Our general rule of thumb is:

  • cook with coconut oil
  • use olive oil at room temp (think…dressings, hummus, etc.)[/box]

In the average person’s kitchen, coconut oil and olive oil are the only two oils you really ‘need’.

But, here’s where it gets a little tricky.

Note that I said ‘general rule of thumb’.  That means that not every rule applies to every body.

That’s the tricky thing when it comes to nutrition. We have a tendency to read something and add it to our lives without really understanding the reason behind it or looking at how it impacts our personal health goals.

For example:

I don’t know about you, but at our house, we used to use a lot of olive oil. We grew up when the Mediterranean Diet was getting a lot of attention. And, somewhere in that era we got the message that olive oil was ‘heart-healthy’. To us, that meant if you want a healthy heart, you should use olive oil. So we poured it on our salad, our stir frys, our bread. We used it for everything and honestly thought we were doing our hearts a favor by adding this important ingredient to our routine.

Today we know better.

Oils are tricky business.

(Actually, they literally are tricky business. If you want to go crazy, you can Google around for the whole scandal around fake olive oils…or read the book on it…that’s a lot of fun. And, now with all of the attention that coconut oil is getting, I’m sure we’ll see a fair amount of scandal there as well.)

But, unless you have a lot of time on your hands, it’s not going to help you get dinner on the table.

So, here’s what you need to know about oils.

Simply put…Oils are fat. They are calorically dense. And, they are a processed food. (And, if you’re like most of us, I’m guessing these are all things you’re trying to avoid).

When we hear claims that olive or coconut oils are heart-healthy, it’s easy to misinterpret. We translate that into thinking – the more the better.

But, oils should always be used in moderation.

Especially for us here in the U.S. who grew up on the Standard American Diet.

When you live in a world where heart disease is the number one killer, you have every reason to consider minimizing (if not avoiding) oils all together.

Go to your cupboard today and take a look at your crackers, breads, chips. What do you see on the ingredient list?  Oils. The fact is we’re getting them everywhere. It sneaks up on you. So, if you’re serious about preventing heart disease or you’re concerned that heart disease runs in your family, oils (of any kind) should definitely be on your watch list.

Some general guidelines:

  • Remember that olive oil and coconut oil are highly processed foods. (And, like many of our recommendations, you want to avoid the concentrated, processed stuff as much as possible because of the lack of fiber, minerals, etc.) Instead, get your healthy fats from whole foods – i.e. avocados, nuts, seeds (unless you have established heart disease in which case you may wish to pursue a more aggressive approach)
  • Dietary fat of all kinds contains more calories than other nutrients. (9 calories per 1 g) MayoClinic.com recommends getting no more than 20 to 35 percent of your total calories from dietary fat. Get no more than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat — or 7 percent or less, if you’re concerned about heart disease.
  • Use your oils sparingly. When you need an oil for cooking, use a little coconut oil. When you need an oil for dressing, use a little olive oil.


When you hear someone recommend an oil as ‘heart healthy’ just know that doesn’t mean it’s a cure for heart disease. It simply means it is less harmful than some of your other choices.

That’s always the scary thing about recommendations. With everyone hearing about the benefits of cooking with coconut oil, pretty soon all of us Americans will be cooking everything in coconut oil (they way we moved from butter to olive oil) and we’ll end up with more heart disease because we slathered on too much! (Or we’ll decide donuts are healthy as long as they are fried in coconut oil.)

Know your oils. Know your health goals. Be smart.

If your goal is to avoid the number one killer for Americans – heart disease – then this is definitely information you want to take to heart.

Was this helpful? Or just more confusing? Leave a comment or question for us below.  

P.S. You’d probably love our recipe book – 130+ recipes that use coconut oil (the right way).


Comments 24

  1. Don Adams
    February 9, 2018

    I have to completely disagree. Coconut Oil’s saturated fat and raising of the bad cholesterol should have people thinking against using it regularly.

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  4. GirLee
    May 16, 2017

    I happen to use coconut oil for everything and have most my life. I use coconut/castor oil mix for an oil treatment on my hair. Coconut/baking soda mix for a face scrub. Coconut mouth rince to whiten my teeth. Coconut oil is what I use for body lotion and is what I use when I lay out in the sun. Coconut oil is substituted for butter in ALMOST every recipe in my kitchen as well as cooking/baking my foods such as French toast, monkey bread, baking cakes both as an ingredient as well as when greasing the pan, etc. Coconut oil instead of olive oil is also delicious on salads as well as in marinade for steak. Coconut oil has not ruined one meal I have made yet. Coconut oil is also used with pets as in ears, on their coats, and my pets, both a cat and dog eat a spoonful daily right off the spoon.
    This is but a minute amount of examples I have listed as to the uses of coconut oil in and out of the kitchen. Trust, the list goes on and on.
    “A lack of knowledge is acceptable until proven”. Your immature response is the only insult that has been made. Or in other words………
    “Shhhh, go along and play with the others. Adults are talking here”
    Because there is no tolerance for ignorance.
    I’m just saddened that I did not happen to come across this site until now.

  5. March 31, 2016

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  7. Aswathy xavier
    March 17, 2015

    thank u …karen for ur kind information.I am an Indian and an ayurvedic scholar .And coconut oil has been a part of our daily life from the time of our ancestors.I agree with ur advice to use every oil to a limited amount..but may I say that we have been using a plenty of coconut oil.,both in cooking,for oil application in head , skin..etc .And with god’s grace no one in our family have complained of heart problems or other issues related to oil consumption.And in Ayurvedic science it is said that the physiological effects of the food stuffs and other edible items will change with the native place, and the particular body compositions of the people in their respective places.So that is all I have to say.

  8. Ángela
    November 27, 2014

    I am Spanish and actually, if you say that olive oil is not good for cooking is because you don’t know how to use olive oil. Olive oil is not always used to cook with high heat methods: we usually poach instead of frying. We cook sautés and fried sauces with olive oil and all our traditional and everyday food is slow cooking. We cook stews just adding olive oil, a kind of paprika (pimentón,from la Vera if possible), garlic, parsley,onion and whater and whatever legume and we cook them slowly;or we use it for marinating; or we add it in a pestle after mashing garlic and herbs in order to add it to a stew, a roast or to whatever,just to give a few examples.In addition there are three types of olive oil depending on how much “processed” are they, that is ,how much pressed are they (up to 3) and each of them is used for diferent purposes. I often have oil at home that is pretty turbid, i could say ‘almost homemade’. I will invite everyone to read and discover the Spanish food beyond tortilla de patata and paella to consider if olive oil is good for cooking or not. I can’t imagine how can you cook a good quality meat or fish with coconut oil. Please do some more research about what happens when you heat the olive oil. Moreover, olive oil is healthier by far and even if you are on a diet you are allowed to take a small amount a day because of its excellent properties. I agree with you that it coconut o. may be good for certain things (i would guess,for some kinds of food from Asia and so)but what you have said can be considered as an insult to all the Mediterranean diet eaters. Undoubtedly.

  9. September 10, 2014

    Hi Clint – I think you are on the right track. We minimize oils where we can as much as possible even in cooking. In high heats we use the coconut. We rarely use olive oil in pesto and humus and that is about it.

  10. Clint
    September 9, 2014

    Just out of curiosity, which oil would be healthiest and most nutritious for cooking?

    I do use coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for dressings/stuff since coconut oil takes in more heat than olive oil before it becomes rancid and bad.
    Wandering if there are any better oils?

  11. August 25, 2014

    my web page web page (Carma)

  12. June 8, 2014

    What are the nutrient content of each? I want to use it on my skin and not sure which oil has more nutrients

  13. May 5, 2014

    In recent taste test 50% of the participants identified rancid Olive Oil as there favorite, proving Americans don’t know what Olive Oil should taste like or how to distinguish the purchase. As there are NO label laws governing Olive Oil the consumer can’t be blamed. Olive Oil has been sighted in the New England Journal of Medicine, as an effective deterrent to Heart disease. I like C Oil very much but it cannot compete with the many uses or health benefits of Olive Oil. The first thing you must know when purchasing OO is the crush date. OO that is more than 14 months old looses much of its flavor and some of the antitoxins, polyphenols. Please help clear up the confusion about OO. For more information go to, http://www.cooc.com

    Steve Mardigian

  14. Karen Smith
    March 7, 2014

    I would stick with the olive oil. Coconut oil is solid when it’s at room temperature – so it doesn’t work well for salad dressing. There is definitely a taste difference between the two. The amount of coconut oil you would use for most cooking purposes is so minimal that you won’t likely notice the taste. Definitely experiment with it. We tend to just use coconut oil when sautéing or for basic cooking and then olive oil for dressings.

  15. Amanda Sanford
    March 7, 2014

    Hi, I want to switch to coconut oil to use in the salad dressing I make at home. Will it work or should I just stick to the small amount of olive oil it requires? Also, is there a major taste difference between the two. Thanks in advance to anyone that can help!

  16. Chantel
    January 30, 2014

    The reason everyone thinks extra virgin Olive Oil has a low smoke point is because you are using a low quality oil. The store I work for started bringing in ultra premium olive oil, and I have proven myself that it does not smoke even with my pan on 7. The reason high quality olive oil is good at higher temps is because the Polyphenols are actually measured (these are the antioxidants in the oil & what give it a higher smoke point) if you search out a high quality extra virgin olive oil with the chemistry given to you (you have to be able to see the amount of polyphenols) (i reccomend veronica foods ultra premium extra virgin olive oils all are over 125 some even up to 550) You can fry & cook with them. The FDA doesnt even measure polyphenols in olive oil so youve been tricked into thinking your crappy grocery store/costco olive oil is the only way!! Plus coconut oil is proven to have bad cholesteral in it as well and is to be used VERY sparingly!

  17. Mary
    November 16, 2013

    Great post! I generally use coconut and olive oil, but I have never known the best uses for each. Thanks!

  18. Karen Smith
    September 19, 2013

    Hi Jessica. For sauteing veggies (i.e. garlic/onions/peppers), you’d be surprised to find you don’t need oil at all. For years we used olive oil thinking we were adding something good to our diets…so we got a little crazy with it. That’s the problem with oils. It’s easy to over-do it. Today, we don’t use any oil at all for that kind of thing. It’s just not necessary – onions do the job…sometimes need to add a tiny bit of water. Truly that’s the healthiest – skip the oil or use very sparingly. If we do use any sort of oil, we use coconut for heat and olive for dressing (no heat).

  19. Jessica
    September 19, 2013

    What is a good oil to saute with? I have used olive oil for years and peanut oil to deep fry but have never considered coconut oil.

  20. Karen Smith
    September 10, 2013

    So true!

  21. Katie
    September 9, 2013

    Nice article…well stated, clear, concise, easy to understand. I think the key here is moderation. Oils are meant to be used sparingly and yet us Americans tend to have an all or nothing mentality and tend to take a good things too far.

  22. Stacie
    July 19, 2013

    Olive oil has a low burn temp, which is why it gets sticky & coconut oil has a high burn temp. Otherwise, if you are concerned about nutrition, olive oil is actually better because it is a non saturated fat whereas coconut oil is a saturated fat. So you are actually better off using canola or peanut oil for higher temp cooking, and olive oil for low temp cooking or salads… Coconut oil should be used sparingly for flavor purposes… As a chef, I find that using coconut oil is nonessential since I can get the desired flavored in my dishes using coconut milk or water, which is much healthier that using straight coconut oil…

  23. July 10, 2013

    Thanks Ronaldo – you are so right you can find arguments on both sides of the oil debate. It comes down to what is right for the individual (and their situation), because like you said we are all from different decent. I agree with you it is a great idea to use olive oil (and really ANY oil) sparingly!

  24. Ronaldo Subawon
    July 9, 2013

    Good day,
    There will all ways be pros and cons regarding the different oils. Me being from an asiatic decent knows about coconut oil. It have been used by us for thousands of years, so do the math. Any as we all say moderation is the word. Most time if I have to fry I use Canola Oil, it is a light oil. Cooking I use Coconut Oil, I use Olive Oil sparingly. People should notice if they fry with Olive Oil, and leave it in the Pan they will notice it will become sticky. This is just my observation, but as we say to each his/her own.

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